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Grey Matters, March 10; Volume 2, Number 25

posted Mar 9, 2014, 8:04 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 26, 2014, 11:10 AM by James Marcotte ]

Starting this week we are trying out new banners/headings for my weekly Grey Matters.  I might eventually pick just one to use, or end up implementing a rotation.  Either way, it seemed time for this newsletter to get a small facelift (no botox was used).  Of course, as long as I am the author, the chances of Grey Matters getting slimmer (i.e. less wordy) is slim to none.  


A few quick notes and reminders before I dive into this week’s main topic which is 9th grade course recommendations (so this newsletter is very important for current 8th grade parents).  First, we are now at 106 followers on Twitter! Thank you to those who helped us over the 100-follower hurdle.  If you want to get on the bandwagon, click here.  Second, a friendly reminder that Spring sports tryouts (baseball & softball) and sign-ups (track - a “no-cut” program) have been scheduled, and information can be found on our Athletics page by clicking here.  


Many of you are familiar with “March Madness” - the phrase used to describe the NCAA college basketball tournament.  Some of you may have read about Warren Buffett’s March Madness challenge, where he is offering $1 billion to anyone who can correctly pick the winner of all 63 games in the tournament.  Here is a Forbes article on the challenge, and here is a direct link for those who want to participate.  At RJ Grey, we too have our own March Madness challenge - a “Battle of the Books”.  Our librarian, Louisa Latham, has put together a bracket of popular young adult fiction titles, and students and staff have been encouraged to vote for their favorite titles, and in a few weeks one title will be crowned the winner.  Students are also encouraged to complete an entire bracket, which makes them eligible for a drawing where a few participants will be awarded $1 billion an iTunes gift card.  You can see a picture of the bracket board, and actually vote online by visiting the library website by clicking here.  If you visit RJ Grey this month, be sure to check out the “Battle of the Books” bracket that is in the lobby (you can’t miss it), to see what books have made the next round.  


Finally, before we get to 9th grade course recommendations, I want to mention that Willy Wonka, our Spring musical, opened this past weekend!  My daughter and I attended the Saturday evening performance, and it was an awesome display of talent and hard work by our students and staff.  There are still performances scheduled for the end of this week (March 14 and March 15), and I encourage you to make an effort to attend.  Tickets can still be purchased at Red, White, and Brew, Donelan’s, and the RJ Grey main office (and also at the door).  Ok, onto high school course registration…..


This week, 8th grade students and families will begin the process of registering for 9th grade courses at the high school.  In early February, the high school held an orientation meeting for families of current 8th grade students, and provided an outline of the registration process. 


On Wednesday (March 12), a group of high school staff will be visiting every 8th grade team to explain the high school schedule and provide each of them with an orientation packet that describes the registration process.  Starting this week (through next week), 8th grade teachers will also begin individual conversations with students to discuss their recommendations for level placement.  The actual registration process takes place via the Parent Portal (directions are included in the orientation packet) when the portal opens in about two weeks.  


During the conversation that takes place with a student, the teacher will explain some of his/her observations about the student’s strengths and areas for growth, and what level placement may be most appropriate for next year.  In many of these conversations, students also share their thoughts on next year, their level of interest in the subject, and their own reflections on the progress they’ve made this year.  To be sure, a teacher’s recommendation is influenced by a student’s performance thus far (trimester grades being one measure), along with a variety of other observations about a student’s approach to the subject.  There are certainly variations that come with different areas of study.  For example, English and Social Studies teachers are asked by the high school to give particular weight to writing, reading comprehension, and critical thinking.  To that end, a teacher in one of those disciplines may place emphasis on a student’s growth on certain types of writing assignments, along with other factors.  


In all of the subjects, a teacher will often review with a student his/her observations about specific student skills, such as time management and self-discipline, and consistency of work.  In addition, teachers are asked to consider level placement with the hope that students will both enjoy the class and have the time to pursue other interests, including extracurricular activities. During this process, it’s important to remind ourselves that these recommendations aren’t meant to serve as a final verdict or prediction for how a student will perform for the rest of their academic lives. It’s feedback based on what a student has demonstrated this year, and using that as a guide to thinking about what a student would be prepared to take on next year.   Some students may have hit their stride this year, and for others it may be their sophomore year when all of a sudden they develop a passion for a certain subject or they figure out that whole time management puzzle (my parents needed to wait until I was about 20 to witness me figuring those out).  I won’t speak officially for the high school, but I am confident that the high school also recognizes that things can and do change over time for adolescents and that there’s always a path for students to take that suit their interests and strengths. 


For many of you, the recommendations made by the teachers may align with your own leanings, and even your child’s. If there are situations where you feel you would benefit from some feedback from the teacher, please ask.  In addition, it’s very useful to discuss with your child what all of you might view as a healthy and appropriate course load for next year.  For example, while a student may have the ability to be successful in a number of accelerated courses, it may not be in his/her best interest to be taking them all at the same time (on top of participating in sports, and/or the school musical, and community service).  Finally, in those instances where you and your student would like to enroll in a course level that is different from the teacher recommendation, there is an “override” application process that is managed by the high school.  Within the orientation packet given to each student, there is a description of the steps that the high school would like you to take to pursue those requests.  


We have MCAS and Project Wellness (for 7th graders) next week.  I’ll be sure to provide everyone some reminders on Monday.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

Andrew


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